Monday, June 27, 2016

What and Why?

Last Sunday we celebrated what Jesus has done by humbling Himself to walk and live a human life, totally devoted to the mission of saving people (that's us).  This Sunday we will marvel at the Father's response to Jesus.

Over the past few weeks a couple of major sports events have concluded and winners have been crowned.  Dustin Johnson won the US Open in golf and the Cleveland Cavilers were crowned champions in NBA Basketball.  For those in golf and basketball these were pretty big deals.  But many of you needed my reminder (above) to tell you who actually won those events.  Earthly fame is brief and I am very weary of the post-hype that has been part of the sports landscape since 24-hour sports networks have come on the scene.  But there is fame and that is not fleeting.  There are earthly deeds that are not shallow.  The poet C.T. Studd says it this way ... "Only one life, twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last."

In Philippians 2 Paul tells us what Jesus has done but he goes on to tell us that God the Father responded to Jesus' acts.  Jesus is exalted and seated next to God.  THAT praise and "hype" is eternal and lasting.

When I look back at each week I can grasp the meaning of both the poem and the Bible verse (Philippians 2:9-11).  I truly do a lot of things every week.  I stay busy.  I fill my week (somehow) with my plans, my actions and my activities.  I wonder ... what would it be like if I filled every week with God-stuff?  Every action and moment could be for Christ.  Every decision could be to follow Jesus in making the world and the people God sends better.  Every motive could be for love of God and neighbor as self.  John Wesley had two words for this ... Christian Perfection.  "Lord ... make it so!"  Randy

Monday, June 20, 2016

Give to Get

I know it doesn't make sense.  Give up something to get something else better.  It is against our nature. But it is wholly in tune with God's nature and God's plan.

The Scriptures are full of examples.  Giving a tithe as a sacrifice showing our love and devotion to God and letting God bless us (Malachi 3:10).  Giving up your life for Jesus so you won't lose it by trying to keep it (Matthew 16).  It is the paradox of how God works in us.  But God didn't just SAY this stuff ... God did it!  Philippians 2:5-8 is a description of just what Jesus did to both model this Godly behavior and apply what He had given us in His word repeatedly.  He gave so we could get something only He could give us.

As I reflected on what, exactly, Jesus gave up (Paul expresses it well here) there was one theme that kept popping into my head.  It is Jesus giving something (and modeling something) that seems the most difficult thing for many who desire to call his name.  Jesus gave up self.

The first part of this chapter is about the attitude of church people and how we should give comfort, fellowship, compassion, cooperative work (in unity), love, humility and an attitude that looks out for the interests of others.  It is a Jesus-focused model for ministry.  But now Paul gives us a way to make all of this happen in a perfect way.  Paul says, "Have the attitude of Jesus."

Don't think this is both attractive and contagious to those who really want God?  I heard a story of a man named John who selflessly served in a faith-based halfway house for people transitioning from jail back into society.  John gave time, energy, advice and love to those men who were, to most of society, unlovable.  A pastor went to check out the ministry.  As he interviewed one of the men about his aspirations after his stay the young man said, "I want to be like John!"  The pastor said, "Don't you mean you want to be like Jesus?"  The young man said, "If he's anything like John, yes!"

When we give up self for Jesus (after all, He gave up everything for you and me) we don't need to worry about being Christlike ... it just happens!  Nuff said!

Sunday, June 12, 2016


Attitude, at it's root, is agenda.  When a child has an "attitude" we are all reminded that the child's agenda is not the agenda of the person handling the discipline and not the agenda that should be affirmed.  Too often we try to handle attitudes with gentle understanding, compromise and "Let's just all try to get along."  I think Jesus would look at this and ask, "What fool allows a child to set the agenda for the family?  In MY Word didn't I express discipline as an act of love (Hebrews 12)?  Did MY Word say, 'We should all have the attitude of Randy?'"

I hope you (and all you dads and moms) get the point of what I am trying to say here.  Philippians 2:4-5 reminds us of our bent toward looking out for our own interests and the Godly attribute of looking out for the interests of others.  In fact, verse 3 says we do Church-work "in humility, regarding others as better than ourselves." Paul, led by God's Spirit, says the standard is not for everyone to have the mind of Randy, Bob, Jenny, Lenny or Valarie.  It is for all of us who are the Church (ESPECIALLY when we meet and fellowship) to have the mind of Christ.  It is impossible to have the mind of Christ and have a self-centered attitude ... the two things are totally incompatible.

In the family it is NOT about the child's agenda ... it is about what is Godly and good for the family.  So dads and moms ... quit letting children set the agenda for your life ... they need your wisdom and boundaries!

In the Church it is not about what is good for me ... it is about what is good for God's purpose.  Paul knew we do this by seeking and following the attitude of Jesus and having an attitude of humility toward others.  WOW, does Jesus know how to do life abundantly!

Monday, June 6, 2016

What's The Point?

In the first 2 verses of Philippians 2 Paul asks 4 questions and gives one bit of advice.  The questions and advice ask an overreaching question ... "If you say you belong to Christ and are unchanged, what's the point?"

Paul isn't asking "Do you take your denomination seriously (a question I will certainly ponder next week at Annual Conference)?"  He isn't asking do you take your membership in a particular congregation seriously?  He isn't posing the question "Am I dutiful in being a good churchman/churchwoman?"  He is asking, do you take what Jesus said seriously.

There are four things Paul is saying ought to be fruits of our relationship to Christ and those with whom we worship.  The first is encouragement, both given and received.  The second is comfort in God's love.  The third is fellowship with God and the people of God.  The fourth is having a tender and compassionate heart.

In one of the congregations I served I watched as I saw an attitude of judgment of others (not themselves), an atmosphere of sternness, a sense of fellowship that was very exclusive and a lack of compassion toward those who had messed up in life.  It was a hard place to serve because I realized very quickly that these people attended church but had no clue (after years of hearing the Word) about being the Church.

Thank you for being people who see that attitude (Chapter 2 of Philippians is all about attitude) and actions express how we live in Christ and how Christ lives in us.  May we never fail to encourage, comfort, fellowship and have Christ-like compassion!